Today it's my pleasure to welcome fellow Wild Rose Press author Debra St. John to Terry's Place. In between working full time and renovating her 1920's home, she sometimes finds time to pen romance novels. She is currently working on her fourth novel and making plans to remodel the dining room.
Terry, thanks so much for having me here at Terry’s Place today! As I’ve been following your recent journey of moving and house-hunting, it conjured up memories of the experiences we’ve had with our house over the years.
Not long after we were married, my husband and I purchased what some folks might label a “fixer-upper”. The eighty-plus year old (at the time) home had been a two-flat for the entire time of its existence. Thus, it showed the wear and tear of a succession of families moving in and out over time.
Our grand plan was to convert it into a single-family home. We weren’t total “virgins” coming into this. My husband is a painting contractor, so he has some experience in the rehab milieu. I was considerably a bit more wet behind the ears, but willing to learn.And what a learning experience it has been. Nine years later it’s still a work in progress, and it’s been a journey fraught with blood, sweat, and tears along the way. I vividly remember the day we signed the contract on the house. We’d headed out to a little hot dog place for lunch. As I stood in line waiting for my milkshake, my husband must have seen the tears pooling in my eyes. When he asked what was wrong, I looked over at him. I’m sure my dismay was clearly visible in my eyes as I cried, “I can’t believe we bought that place. What were we thinking?” My vision of a dream home had been lost to images of nasty shag carpet, duct taped windows, and cracked plaster.
Once I got past the tears, it turned out the sweating part was fun. Over the years I’ve learned to use a variety of power tools (better than many of the ‘boys’ we know), tear down ceilings, rip up carpet, and install flooring to name a few things. And that’s only on the inside. I’ve also become a darn good landscaper ( A patio, walkways, flower beds, and a pond.).
We started out slowly with the cosmetic changes, and then moved on to the heavy hitters: gutting and remodeling both bathrooms and the kitchen, converting an outside staircase on the back porch to an inside one, removing storm windows and doors to ‘reclaim’ our front porch, and converting attic space to a tv/sitting room loft.
Throughout the process, at times we’ve peeled away layers or added our own as needed for any particular project.
Which brings me to the revision part of this post.
As a writer, I’ve come to discover editing and revising a manuscript is a lot like renovating/remodeling a house.
Sometimes different layers need to be added to the story to build a character’s background, deepen the conflict, or even heighten the sexual tension. Sometimes layers need to be removed, like when I’ve included way too much backstory in the first five pages.
Edits and revisions need to be done meticulously, one thing at a time. The first pass might concentrate on finding and eliminating all those times I’ve told instead of shown. Another pass might look for repeated words. While another might be on the lookout for those pesky “ly” words or passive voice. Some edits/revisions amount to cosmetic changes, minor things done to polish the story. Others require digging much deeper, maybe even changing an entire scene, plotline, conflict, or character arc.
With both renovating and revising, it’s a pleasure to see where I’ve started and how far I’ve come. We’ve taken plenty of pictures over the years of our house; as it was, as it changed, and as it is now. It’s amazing to look back at this visual chronology and see how far we’ve come. Each year on the anniversary of buying our home, we pull out the photo albums and scrapbooks and take a look. There are still things that need to be done, but as the saying goes, we’ve come a long way baby.
I’ll often keep not only the first, but subsequent drafts of my manuscripts as well. I even have the very first sad attempts I made at writing way back in my high school days. I’ve definitely learned a lot since then, but it’s fun to look back and realize just how much I’ve learned.
All that time and effort has paid off, and even the blood, sweat, and tears have been worth it. I have a beautiful home, and I can proudly say I write contemporary romance for The Wild Rose Press.
Debra's latest book, Wild Wedding Weekend, is available now. And readers are always welcome to visit her at her website (www.debrastjohnromance.com) to see what other projects she has going on!